LOST HORIZON ($28) is a DVD no serious movie fan will want to do without. Something of a lost movie, Frank Capraís classic LOST HORIZON has been undergoing a restoration for the last quarter of a century. Released in 1937, before there were such things as television, home video or DVD, LOST HORIZON was not well preserved because the studios didnít see much shelf life for their films beyond their initial release. Not only was LOST HORIZON not well preserved by Columbia Pictures, the film was repeatedly cut down from its 132 minute running time for various releases, with 25 minutes of excised footage finally being lost by the studio. The restored version of LOST HORIZON is comprised of the filmís complete 132 soundtrack, with film footage being culled together from various 35mm and 16mm sources. Unfortunately, there remains about 7 minutes of missing footage that has been replaced with still pictures and freeze frames. Despite the missing footage, LOST HORIZON remains a totally uplifting movie and a true cinematic treasure to be savored by film fans.
LOST HORIZON is based upon the novel James Hilton and tells the story of a British diplomat named Robert Conway (Ronald Colman) who finds himself on a hijacked plane after helping his fellow Europeans escape from a volatile situation in a war torn Asian province. Conway, along with his brother George (John Howard) and several other passengers, find themselves heading for parts unknown, when the plane suddenly crash lands somewhere in the Himalayan mountains. Fortunately, the inhabitants of a nearby community rescue Conway and his party from freezing to death on the mountain.
After a trek over a snow swept trail, Conway and the others are taken to Shangri-La, a valley that is protected from the harsh weather outside by the mountain range itself. Because of its remote location, Shangri-La is virtually cut off from the outside world. At first, the survivors of the plane crash are eager to leave Shangri-La, despite the near impossibility of crossing the mountains. However after spending some time in the idyllic community, no one really wants to return to the world outside, all except for Conwayís brother George, who feels as if he were being held prisoner. The first rate cast of LOST HORIZON also features Jane Wyatt, Thomas Mitchell, Isabel Jewell, H.B. Warner, Sam Jaffe and character actor extraordinaire Edward Everett Horton, who delivers a smile inducing performance.
As I stated above, the restored version of LOST HORIZON has been assembled from various 35mm and 16mm sources. Columbia Pictures has done a lot of restorative work (including digital repairs) to make the film look as good as possible. Columbia TriStar Home Video has taken these materials and delivers the best looking edition of LOST HORIZON that is currently possible. The full frame black and white image ranges between sharp and detailed for the 35mm sections, to soft and grainy for the 16mm sections. In 35mm, LOST HORIZON has deep, true blacks; plus relatively good contrast. In 16mm, a dark gray is about as close to black as one is likely to find. Fortunately the majority of the film is in 35mm, with only short passages in 16mm. Many of the most severe scratches have been repaired with digital wizardry, however smaller imperfections remain in the material. There is no evidence of digital compression artifacts thanks to first rate authoring and the use of dual layer technology.
The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is spread into two channels and sounds quite good for a movie that is over 60 years old. Dialogue is always clean and intelligible and the track is worth amplifying for Dimitri Tiomkinís beautiful score. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai.
The interactive menus have a nice look, but are fairly basic in their implementation. Through the menu system, one has access to the standard set up and scene selection features, as well as the DVDís nice array of supplements. Topping the list of supplements is a terrific audio commentary with noted film critic Charles Champlin and UCLA Film Restoration Expert Robert Gitt. Gitt is the man who undertaken the job of assembling the most complete version of LOST HORIZON over the last 25 years. The talk is very informative about the production of LOST HORIZON, as well as what went into the restoration of the film. Other supplements include an alternate ending to the film, before and after comparisons of footage that required digital restoration, three deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer. Last, but not least, is photo documentary narrated by film historian Kendall Miller, which runs 30 minutes and covers the filmís production in great detail- an absolutely fascinating feature that is not to be missed.
While I remain hopeful that a complete pristine print of LOST HORIZON will someday surface, the restored version of the film is good as it gets until then. Columbia TriStar Home Video has put a great deal of effort into their release of LOST HORIZON, delivering a DVD that every fan of classic movies will want to own. Absolutely recommended.
reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied
or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.